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Fear of violence and gendered power relations: Responses to threat in public space in Sweden
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social and Economic Geography.
2011 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Rädsla för våld och könade maktrelationer : Hantering av hot i det offentliga rummet i Sverige (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

Several cases of single repeat offenders in urban space have raised public concern in Sweden during recent decades. Few studies have been conducted on consequences of the kind of ‘hostage situations’ that emerge when one individual offender causes fear and affects a larger group of people in a specific place. The concern of this thesis is to examine consequences of the Haga Man phenomenon: the case of a serial rapist operating between 1998 and 2006 in Umeå, a medium-sized Swedish city. This thesis explores some of the ways not only women but also men in Umeå responded to this specific situation, the threat from a single repeat offender, and how fear of crime and changing public crime discourses influenced gendered power relations. The thesis examines different aspects of fear and safety in public space, such as the views of those who are fearful; of those who are feared; perceptions of both women’s and men’s bodies; their emotions and experiences in relation to fear of violence in public spaces; and the significance of space and place for our understanding of fear. The empirical data of this thesis consist of in-depth interviews with a total of 47 women and men in Umeå.

The thesis is based on four empirical studies. The first (Paper I) sought to identify similarities and differences across narratives in terms of the major components of young people’s talk about fear.  In their stories women positioned themselves as fearful and in need of protection, while men in their stories positioned themselves as fearless protectors. Men and women reproduced ways of speaking considered appropriate to their gender, thus performing masculinity and femininity through their talk. Paper II, examines consequences of the Haga Man phenomenon on constructions of white masculinities. Three masculine positions; the dangerous stranger, the suspect and the protector were identified. These three constructions of masculinity were not clear-cut or ‘belonging’ to specific men – several of the interviewees articulated various forms of masculinities but stressed them in different ways depending on, for instance, age and/or ethnicity/race. Paper III, focuses on changing perceptions and representations of female and male bodies, and illustrates how a change took place; from a focus on how women should conduct themselves to be safe, towards men’s bodily behaviour in order to present themselves in non-threatening ways. In Paper IV, women’s fear of violence is discussed in relation to Swedish gender equality discourses and contextual constructions of femininity. The results show the difficulties of claiming the official position of a gender-equal femininity. Several female respondents expressed an ambivalent attitude about their own fear; they felt afraid, but also felt that as (equal) women they should be able to do what they wanted, whenever they wanted.  Result from this thesis shows that this situation produced a shared approach to fear for women of different ages, classes and ethnicities in Umeå. The similarity in the women’s responses to the threat from the Haga Man is as an expression of a normative femininity. The male respondents did on the other hand express complex emotional positions as they talked about their own fears, women’s fear of unknown men and how they felt they were under suspicion and compared to the perpetrator. As this thesis provides an understanding of how men and women responded and reacted to the threat from the Haga man, it contributes to a better understanding of how fear of violence affects people in their everyday lives.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Kulturgeografiska Institutionen, Umeå Unversitet , 2011.
Series
GERUM, ISSN 1402-5205 ; 2011:3
Keyword [en]
The geography of fear, gender relations, fear of violence, whiteness, gender equality, masculinity, femininity, narrative analysis, Sweden
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-48591ISBN: 978-91-978344-7-6 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-48591DiVA: diva2:451329
Public defence
2011-11-18, Samhällsvetarhuset, Hörsal C, Umeå Universitet, Umeå, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2011-10-28 Created: 2011-10-25 Last updated: 2014-02-24Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Talking about fear of violence in public space: Female and male narratives about threatening situations in Umeå, Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Talking about fear of violence in public space: Female and male narratives about threatening situations in Umeå, Sweden
2010 (English)In: Social & cultural geography (Print), ISSN 1464-9365, E-ISSN 1470-1197, Vol. 11, no 1, 1-15 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Geographers may benefit from a narrative approach as it permits insights into both meanings and how stories are permitted and controlled by social conditions. The aim of this article is to discuss methodological aspects of studying fear as a restriction on mobility and use of public space. We have used examples from a study on fear of violence in the city of Umeå, Sweden at the time of threats from a serial rapist, the Haga Man. We employed Labov's model to analyse female and male narratives about fear. Women from all backgrounds reproduced a shared story of experiences of fear. Male stories were fragmented and diverse, especially in terms of ethnicity. The Haga Man was described in the media as a man of 'normal Swedish appearance', which put a focus on Swedish hegemonic masculinity and 'normality' rather than on commonly reproduced fear of the racialized other. Labov's model was useful in clarifying how narratives differed in their structural components and completeness, but limited in terms of how to interpret the evaluative component: the model needs to be combined with theory in order to understand relations to changing political, institutional and media discourses on crime and fear in public space.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxfordshire, UK: Routledge,Taylor & Francis Group, 2010
Keyword
narrative analysis, Labov, geography of fear, fear of crime, gender, urban space, Sweden
National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-33755 (URN)10.1080/14649360903420178 (DOI)000273611800001 ()
Available from: 2010-05-10 Created: 2010-05-05 Last updated: 2017-12-12Bibliographically approved
2. “It was entirely his fault”: constructing white masculinities and the Haga man assaults in Umeå, Sweden 1998-2006
Open this publication in new window or tab >>“It was entirely his fault”: constructing white masculinities and the Haga man assaults in Umeå, Sweden 1998-2006
2013 (English)In: Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, ISSN 0966-369X, E-ISSN 1360-0524, Vol. 20, no 2, 178-194 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Several cases of single repeat offenders in urban space have raised public concern in Sweden during recent decades. Few studies have been conducted on the consequences of the hostage situations' that emerge when one individual offender causes fear and affects a large group of people in a specific place. The concern of this article is to examine consequences of the Haga Man phenomenon: the case of a serial rapist operating between 1998 and 2006 in Umea, a medium-sized Swedish city. The article focuses on the construction of white masculinities among male respondents in Umea during the time of the attacks. I examine how men positioned themselves in relation to the public image of the offender as a normal Swede' and how they related to women's increasing fear of violence in urban space. Three prominent constructions of masculinity emerged from the research data: the dangerous stranger, the suspect and the protector. These three constructions of masculinity were not clear-cut and did not belong' to specific men several of the interviewees articulated various forms of masculinities but stressed them in different ways depending on, for instance, age and/or ethnicity/race. I conclude that men largely positioned themselves as protectors as a strategy to distance themselves from the perpetrator (the image of the normal Swedish man' performing the rapes) and to ensure that they would not be perceived as suspects. However, men largely perceived that women's increased fear of crime was one man's fault' and broader issues about gendered power relations in space were not raised.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2013
Keyword
the geography of fear, gender, masculinity, whiteness, narrative analysis, Sweden
National Category
Gender Studies Human Geography Social Sciences
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-48588 (URN)10.1080/0966369X.2012.674931 (DOI)000317268400003 ()
Note

Ingick som manuskript i avhandlingen "Fear of violence and gendered power relations". 

Available from: 2011-10-25 Created: 2011-10-25 Last updated: 2017-12-08Bibliographically approved
3. “I try to use my body language to show I’m not a bad guy” – Male bodies and women’s fear of a repeat offender in Umeå, Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>“I try to use my body language to show I’m not a bad guy” – Male bodies and women’s fear of a repeat offender in Umeå, Sweden
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This article focuses on changing perceptions and representations of female and male bodies during a period of threat against women from a repeat offender in the medium-sized city of Umeå, Sweden. Based on interviews with women and men in Umeå, this article aims to examine meanings of fear of violence in public space by focusing on constructions of the body during a period of changing public crime discourses due to assaults by a serial rapist, the so-called Haga Man. The article illustrates how a change took place in both individual and public narratives from a focus on how women should conduct themselves to be safe, toward men’s bodily behavior in order to present themselves in a non-threatening way. This case study stresses the importance of context and demonstrates the temporality in how bodies are perceived in space. A shift of emphasis took place toward bodies that frighten, rather than those that are afraid. Public descriptions of the Haga Man focused on characteristics of the perpetrator’s body and ‘normal Swedish appearance’, which constructed an image of the dangerous white body. White male respondents positioned themselves in relation to these descriptions and were partly challenged with respect to new perceptions and meanings associated with ‘normality’. In descriptions of the Haga Man’s victims women were presented as vulnerable, but in contrast to many other cases there was no immediate focus on women’s bodies in terms of respectability. The findings contribute to a discussion of how gendered power relations can be understood through shifting representations of bodies in space.

National Category
Human Geography
Research subject
Cultural Anthropology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-48589 (URN)
Available from: 2011-10-25 Created: 2011-10-25 Last updated: 2011-10-25
4. Afraid and restricted vs bold and equal: Women’s fear of violence and gender equality discourses in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Afraid and restricted vs bold and equal: Women’s fear of violence and gender equality discourses in Sweden
2013 (English)In: The European Journal of Women's Studies, ISSN 1350-5068, E-ISSN 1461-7420, Vol. 20, no 2, 189-203 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study analyses the responses and reactions among women in Umeå during the period of threat from the Haga Man: a serial rapist operating between 1998 and 2006, and highlights how women in this new situation handled feelings of vulnerability and fearof violence in public space. The article analyses the ways women positioned themselves in their narratives and how this could be understood in terms of how they negotiated spaces for agency within a context where public space has been represented as safe and gender-equal. Women’s fear of violence is discussed in relation to Swedish genderequality discourses and contextual constructions of femininity. The research is based on empirical data collected through in-depth interviews with women in Umeå. The results show the difficulties of claiming the official position of a gender-equal femininity. The informants’ ambivalence, and partly anger, in relation to a femininity they wanted but could not have also created an opportunity for critique of women’s position in society and thus a challenge to a presumed gender equality that stands in the way of addressing issues of gendered power relations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Sage Publications, 2013
Keyword
Fear of Violence, Femininity, Gender Equality, Narrative Analysis, Sweden
National Category
Gender Studies Human Geography
Research subject
Social and Economic Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-68404 (URN)10.1177/1350506812463911 (DOI)
Available from: 2013-04-18 Created: 2013-04-18 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved

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